Jazz 87, Magic 81

Al Jefferson had trouble sitting down and putting on his socks.

He needed a trainer to help with his shoes and shirt.

But the Utah Jazz big man could still crack jokes through the

pain of back spasms after scoring a season-high 31 points and

grabbing 15 rebounds in an 87-81 victory Wednesday night over the

Orlando Magic.

”That’s the reason I bought the $25,000 bed,” Jefferson said

of the 10-foot wide, 12-foot long custom job he ordered this summer

after he experienced similar back pain. ”It was worth every dime.

That’s why I can’t wait to get home and get in it right now.”

Whatever works for Big Al.

Just about everything did Wednesday night until he corralled his

final rebound with 1:29 remaining and the Jazz leading 85-81.

Jefferson grabbed at his back under the basket, took a few steps,

then hit the floor in obvious pain and finally had to be helped

off.

”I’m glad he didn’t crumble 2-3 minutes earlier or we would

have been in trouble,” teammate Randy Foye said.

Jefferson had just eight points at halftime but scored 17 in the

third quarter and was the difference down the stretch as the Jazz

held off a furious Orlando comeback attempt.

Orlando trailed by 14 in the first half and by 11 entering the

fourth but took a 79-78 lead on Glen Davis’ powerful jam. Foye’s

3-pointer and back-to-back jumpers by Jefferson right before his

injury sealed the win for Utah.

”That’s why I get paid the big bucks,” Jefferson said. ”They

expect me to go out there and lead the team, nothing less.”

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn had plenty of praise for

Jefferson.

”Al stays within himself,” said Vaughn, who spent the first

four years of his playing career in a Jazz uniform. ”He knows his

game and he makes jump shots, which makes his post game even more

difficult to guard. … When you get a guy like him rolling, he is

tough to stop.”

Davis led Orlando with 18 points. Jameer Nelson had 17 and Arron

Afflalo added 16.

Paul Millsap scored 22 points for Utah, including 16 in the

first half when the Jazz led by as many as 14.

The Magic managed only 15 points in the first quarter and 34 in

the first half, but fought back behind Davis.

His three-point play pulled Orlando to 76-72 with 5:41 remaining

and J.J. Redick’s three-point play off a driving layup with 4:20

left had the Magic within 78-77. Davis’ powerful dunk over two

defenders gave Orlando a 79-78 lead with 3:33 left.

Foye, who started 0 for 6, countered with a 3-pointer to put the

Jazz back on top 81-79 with 3:11 remaining. Jefferson then hit

back-to-back jumpers to seal the win, finishing 13 of 20 from the

field with two assists and a steal.

”I felt bad, missing all those shots when I had clear looks,”

Foye said. ”(The last one) made up for it.”

Orlando fought back in the third behind Redick, pulling to

56-53. But Utah closed the quarter on a 12-4 run to lead 68-57,

with Jazz reserves providing the spark defensively. DeMarre Carroll

had a pair of steals and helped force a backcourt violation.

Jefferson was Utah’s offense with a 17-point quarter on 6-of-9

shooting

”Tonight the shots were falling and, of course, we didn’t want

to (lose) four games in a row,” Jefferson said. ”No disrespect to

Orlando, but they’re the type of team you can attack on the

inside.”

Utah held a 30-14 edge on points in the paint in the first half

while holding the Magic to 36 percent shooting and forcing a dozen

turnovers in stopping Orlando’s winning streak at two.

”We did a great job of sharing the basketball tonight,”

Millsap said when asked about not losing another heartbreaker after

building a big lead. ”That was the key. … We’re a little banged

up and that’s what makes this game even more amazing.”

Jefferson, despite difficulty dressing himself, vowed to be

ready to go Friday night against Toronto.

Of course he had some medicine in hand, and the huge bed

awaiting, explaining that it cost an extra $10,000 to have it done

quickly rather than six to eight weeks.

”I don’t miss games,” Jefferson said. ”I’ll be ready to play

unless I just can’t walk.”

NOTES: Clippers guard Chauncey Billups received a warning from

the NBA on Wednesday about flopping for a call late in Monday’s

game against the Jazz when he kicked out his feet on a 3-pointer

and drew a foul from Mo Williams. Billups sank two of three free

throws with 1:14 left in an eventual one-point Jazz loss. ”It does

us a lot of good now, the game’s over,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin

said. ”I thought we might have been right; we were right.” …

Vaughn was drafted in the first round (No. 27) by the Jazz in 1997

and played in 224 games for Utah. … Jazz shot-blocking specialist

Derrick Favors missed his third straight game because of plantar

fasciitis in his right foot. … Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward went

0 for 6. … Jazz F Marvin Williams returned to the starting lineup

after missing the previous three games with concussion-like

symptoms. He finished with eight points.